The need for speed
Received an email today from a regular reader, Bruce Peter, that's good enough to post in its entirety:
I'm having a discussion on a message board about which teams are, collectively, fast. It was after watching the Edmonton/Minnesota game last night... Minny made Edmonton look like turtles, and I thought Edmonton looked incredibly quick in their first game or two that I saw them. I know you're a stat guy, and there are know statistical measurements for this characteristic, but you also watch a lot of hockey. Who are some teams that you've seen that's collective team speed stands out, for good and bad?Minny with guys like Gaborik, Walz, Bouchard, Johnsson, Rolston, and on and on stand out to me as probably the fastest. It's also something they've gone for right from their expansion draft to their current lineup. This friend of mine, who is a Colorado fan, was worried by my comments because he feels the Avalanche collectively lack speed.A lot was made of team speed in the first year or so of the "new NHL", and it seems to have faded a bit with Anaheim winning the Cup, despite the fact they had very good skaters as well as bruisers (their first and thrid lines in particular, and of course Scott Niedermeyer). Has it gone from being "the most important skill" in the new NHL to something less, or is it just so readily accepted that the difference between teams is less pronounced as a result? As in, has every team adjusted by now to a speedier league?
Bruce is right about the Wild. Jacques Lemaire's wanted a fast team from Day 1, and only now are some of the kids they drafted three/four years ago rounding into form. I've been talking about Brent Burns quite a bit already this season, as for a 6-foot-4 defenceman, he can wheel.
And team speed starts on the blue line. Minnesota's also got Kim Johnsson, Petteri Nummelin and Nick Schultz who can skate, and those guys go a long way toward their success playing the trap through the neutral zone. Johnsson and Schultz were two of the top players in the league in even strength goals against per minute on the ice last season.
Anaheim? The Ducks lose a lot of their team speed without Niedermayer; they were more of a hybrid team, anyway, with a few speedsters like McDonald, Selanne, etc., joining a pile of lugs up front.
Other fast teams? I'd say Buffalo, Nashville, Ottawa, Washington (Poti makes a big difference there) and maybe even LA now (aside from Blake, of course).
I'm curious what others think: Do you still have to build with speed in order to succeed?